NEW YORK (AP) — Moose Skowron, a five-time World Series champion and one of only two players to hit three home runs in Game 7s, died Friday of congestive heart failure at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill. He was 81.
Skowron helped the New York Yankees win four titles in the 1950s and 1960s.
"There weren't many better guys than Moose," said former teammate Yogi Berra, the only other player with three Game 7 homers in the Series. "He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too."
Skowron became a star first baseman with the Yankees and went on to appear in eight All-Star games over six seasons.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called him "an integral part of the wonderful Yankee teams of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris."
"He was a wonderful storyteller and an important link to a great era in baseball history," Selig said.
After Skowron's playing career he returned to Chicago, where he was born and had worked for the White Sox since 1999 in the team's community relations department, making appearances.
"We all have lost a dear, dear friend today," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "While Moose may have become a star in New York with the Yankees, he was a Chicagoan through and through. I certainly will miss his priceless stories about Casey Stengel, Roger Maris, Hank Bauer and of course, his good friend, Mickey Mantle. ... My guess is that right now Mickey, Roger, Hank and Moose are enjoying a good laugh together."
Skowron played for the Yankees from 1954-62, then won a fifth title with Los Angeles in the first season after he was dealt to the Dodgers for Stan Williams. He hit .282 in 14 major league seasons with 211 home runs and 888 RBIs, also spending time with the expansion Washington Senators (1964), the White Sox (1964-67) and the California Angels (1967). He was an All-Star from 1957-61, appearing in both games in 1959 and 1960, then was picked one final time in 1965.
He was beloved by Yankees fans for his clutch performances in three World Series Game 7s. He hit a seventh-inning grand slam off Roger Craig in a 9-0 win over Brooklyn in 1956, and a three-run homer against Lew Burdette in the eighth inning of a 6-2 win over Milwaukee in 1958. He also had a leadoff drive in the fifth inning off Vernon Law in 1960, when the Yankees overcame a four-run deficit at Pittsburgh to take a 7-4 lead only to lose 10-9.
Skowron had a .293 World Series average with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 39 games.
Born William Joseph Skowron on Chicago's North Side, he said he was given the nickname Moose when he was 7 after his grandfather gave him a haircut that caused friends to call him "Mussolini" — after the Italian fascist leader. The nickname was shortened to Moose.
After attending Weber High School, Skowron went to Purdue on a football scholarship and signed with the Yankees.
He hit .304 or better in each of his first four major league seasons and five times overall. He topped 20 homers four times but never reached 100 RBIs, getting a high of 91 in 1960.
"Moose could really hit the baseball — especially home runs to right field," former roommate Bob Turley said. "I was glad Moose was on my team because he always wanted to win."
In addition to his Game 7 feats, Skowron had an RBI single in the 10th inning of Game 6 in 1958 that gave the Yankees a two-run lead and they held on to beat the Braves 4-3.
"Moose will always be remembered as being one of the key members of the Yankees' dynasties in the 50's and early 60's," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He was a winner in every sense of the word, and someone the Yankees family cared deeply for."
He is survived by wife Lorraine (nicknamed Cookie), daughter Lynnette, sons Greg and Steve, brother Edward and four grandchildren. A wake will be held Monday at Colonial-Wojciechowski Funeral Home in Niles, Ill., and a funeral the following day at Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago.